Thursday, January 7, 2010

Managing a Creative Team

I am still working on this skill desperately, but here are some of the things I've learned recently about managing a creative team. Warning: this topic could be the subject of an entire book.

What is a creative team?
You know your part of a creative team when your job requires design, architecture, creativity, and ingenuity.

We aren't making burgers, pulling weeds, or driving trucks or selling products. The output is a creation that is uniquely crafted. I view Programming, Artwork, Marketing, Web Design, Game Design etc as creative tasks.

What are the difficulties?

The challenge is with "creative's" is that individual performance or productivity can possibly have no correlation to "time spent" on a task but rather things like intrinsic motivation, guidance or divine inspiration.

As a manager you have no explicit control of how they do there job. Yet your are responsible for getting quality results in a timely manner.

What advice do I have?
  • Each of your team members is different and you need to treat them all differently. Treating them uniquely is more important than treating them fairly. Don't assume they are like you, or "all artists are similar". These differences are what makes them amazing and is what you can use to maximize their productivity. For example: some individuals need to be left alone. Some individuals if you leave them alone they will waste a bunch of time and get virtually nothing accomplished. Some individuals you can "beat with a stick" to better stuff out. Some individuals its all about cutting apart their work just right. Some people you give financial milestones. Some of them you complement them in public. Some you talk to in private.
  • Constantly be looking for an individual's talents and strengths. Work to maximize their individual performance my encouraging them to always perform better then they did in the past.
  • Find communication that works for the both of you. Clearly explain what you want the outcome to be.
  • Demand excellence or all you will get is crap. Constraints are an amazing tool. "I believe you can do better". "I think you can do this faster" "I think you can do this with fewer lines of code"
  • As a manager you have "no control" you only have remote control. Don't fake yourself into thinking your in control. At the end of the day all you can do is inspire and direct the team to doing the right things.
  • Give them objectives and milestones that are meaningful to them. Its your job to get all members of the team to build something amazing. Treat each member of the team individually. Give them an objective that is something they have control over. The best teams are the ones that have high performing individuals and are working towards one common vision.

The Objective:
"A great creative manager can get blood from stones without making enemies."